By Thomas Barlow
So I was going to try and do a tongue-in-cheek, satirical remembrance of Bob Crow that lauded his achievements whilst chastising his enemies in a humorous way, but Mark Steele beat me to that – and unfortunately he is just far better than me in every department. So instead let me launch into a straight, good old tub thumping tirade against his detractors, who hypocritically came out to mourn his death this week.
The amount of stick he got for ridiculous things like daring to have a holiday (A holiday?! IN BRAZIL?! How f***ing dare he?!) may well have been a contributory factor to his sudden and unfortunate passing, so let Boris and the other thoughtless reactionaries shut their traps and consider Bob’s true worth for a moment. I am going to use a phrase that is unpopular because of it’s bland Marxist connotations, but it is true to say that he was a true working class militant. Tony Benn’s passing is a tragedy and he was truly principled and fine person, but when it comes to organising and standing alongside the majority of people (what we used to call the working class), Bob delivered results.
It is dangerous and wrong to mythologise one person so I shall try to refrain from doing so. It can only be hoped that the RMT carry on in the vein of form they have with Bob, and knowing many of the members, I think it is a safe bet that they will continue. But what Bob represented was not just a straight talking, working class, Millwall fan. He represented success.
When I make arguments for unionisation nowadays I always ask the following questions; ‘Do you like your weekends mate? Your lunch breaks? 8 hour days? Nearer pay equality for men and women? Holidays? Not being killed at work?Not seeing your kids working 16 hour shifts for a pittance? Hell, what about the vote for the majority of people, the Welfare state and a good deal of our civil liberties?’
‘Because you can thank the unions for that, and most importantly, all the people within them, who for 150 years were ridiculed, oppressed, beaten and killed for daring to be in one.’
Thanks to the RMT and Bob I could go further. ‘Do you think everyone has to have their pay slashed? Lose jobs with no notice? Work zero hour contracts? Do unpaid internships? The RMT crews don’t!’
Unbelievably this is one of the things that irritated some people the most about Bob and the RMT. ‘We all get shafted in the private sector, why should they get better conditions?’
Well firstly, we probably shouldn’t keep supporting privatisation if the only thing guaranteed from it is a good shafting for the majority of people who work in that sector.
More importantly though, whilst people are right to bemoan the shafting they get at their work places, the solution isn’t to hope everyone else gets corn-holed equally roughly. It is like asking to be the whip hand on a plantation, who gets to beat the others before taking your own stripes across the back. It is the mentality of miserable oppression, and shows our innate inability to celebrate improvement for each other.
This is how we lose, and yet Bob showed us how we can win. We want a living wage. We can strike. We want real contracts. We can strike. We want civil liberties, working healthcare and social care and genuine prospects for a lost generation. We can strike.
Don’t get me wrong, I know it is not as easy as all that.
There is more than enough wrong with the unions, with their super mergers, their obsequiousness to the Labour party and their moronic and cowardly representation of our struggles. But the Unions are what we make them, any social struggle is.
We cannot expect those above us to do things for us, we have to do it ourselves.
I am sure Bob would not mind me saying that it wasn’t him who won the negotiations and struggles for his members. It was the members who won them, united, militant and ready to take the flak. And Bob was there with them, every step of the way.
So if we get together, and we look at all the tactics available to us to cause trouble for the elite, and we are prepared to use them, regardless of the violence and abuse that will be chucked at us, we can have more than holidays and the vote – we could actually win a life worth living.
It’s what Bob would have wanted.